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Student enjoys time at school

Sixth grader Brian Jackson, 11, works on math problems in Laura Smith’s math strategies class Wednesday afternoon at Morgantown Elementary School. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — When Brian Jackson hunkered down on his desk with his elbow out, gripping a No. 2 pencil to take a practice MCT2 test Wednesday, he kind of enjoyed it, Jackson admitted.

“I’ve always liked school,” Jackson said.

Even testing can be enjoyable for Jackson, as long as he’s paid attention in class and studied at home, the Morgantown Elementary School sixth grader said.

In a way, showing off his math skills — Jackson’s favorite school subject — gives him a chance to be himself.

“It just expresses me,” he said.

And since Jackson hopes to become a robotics engineer when he grows up, he said he knows the math skills he learns now will count going forward in the future.

“I think (math) will help me to pursue my career,” he said.

“I like to build and deal with technology.”

Jackson’s former fourth-grade math and science teacher from McLaurin Elementary School, Hayes Harris, smiled when he talked about Jackson.

“(Jackson) wants to be challenged,” Harris said.

“Don’t give him anything easy,” Harris warned.

Harris’ 2009-2010 fourth-grade class, which included Jackson, helped McLaurin’s MCT2 math scores exceed those of the state average.

As a result of McLaurin’s test scores from 2010 that demonstrated the school’s “commitment to closing the achievement gap,” McLaurin was one of two schools in Mississippi that was named a National Title I Distinguished School, according to a letter to McLaurin from the U.S. Department of Education.

McLaurin administrators accepted the award at a national Title I conference in Seattle in January, and the school was awarded $24,556 to be used on equipment and supplies to help increase student achievement.

Jackson said he still uses strategies he learned from Harris and Harris’ co-teacher, Shiela Sewell, while taking tests.

For instance, Jackson said he refers to process of elimination to find answers that don’t immediately pop out at him, and he pays attention to key words like “not,” which help him interpret the question.

With district-wide mock testing going on this week, Harris said he’s been emphasizing the importance of test taking to his students.

“This day in age, everything is evaluated by a test,” Harris said.

“I told my kids (in his class), I had to take a test to be able to teach you.”

Harris said standardized testing puts more pressure on teachers and students, but it’s a challenge he welcomes.

“It makes me work hard, and I try to push them hard,” Harris said.

Harris said he’s always tried to teach his students that what they learn now will be the foundation that will dictate their success in the future.

Jackson, who believes in the message Harris left with him, said he makes sure he always maintains his A-average.

Jackson said he’s motived by the fact that if he “keeps it up,” like his parents encourage him to do, he will hopefully be able to attend Georgia Institute of Technology after high school, earn a high-level degree and work to make robots for industries, the military and other U.S. Government needs.

Jackson, who has participated in S.O.A.R. — Seminar Option Alternatives and Research, a gifted students program — since third grade, said he thinks he gets his smarts from his family genes.

It also helps that he considers himself a self-motivator and never gives himself free time after school until he finishes his homework and checks over it, Jackson said.

He also thinks his musical talent is inherited.

When he’s finished his homework, Jackson likes to play the snare drum, his drum set or the trombone.

“(I’ve played drums) ever since I could pick up a handle and get a pot,” Jackson said.

Brian Jackson is the son of Claude and Priscilla Jackson.

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